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ACT 2021 Featured Capstone:

Compassion Cultivation for People with

Hypospadias & Epispadias

David Hlebain

MSW, Seattle, Washington, USA


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Who did your project serve and what suffering did it adress?
I created a compassion cultivation workshop series for adults living with congenital urological conditions, specifically hypospadias and epispadias. Rare, chronic, congenital health conditions — especially those related to the urological and reproductive systems — can be a source of mental and emotional challenge, including feelings of loss, shame, inadequacy, or anger.

How did this project address that suffering?
The strength of my workshop was the ability to practice compassion in community with others with similar experiences. Together, we created space to compassionately listen to one another and engage in embodied practices to connect with compassion for others and ourselves.

Who was your audience and how many people participated? 
Through a partnership with the Hypospadias & Epispadias Association, I recruited a group of seven participants. The size was particularly well-suited for an intimate workshop experience.

How was the project delivered (the format)? 
Each 2.5-hour workshop consisted of brief content delivery, embodied practices of compassion, and conversation with compassionate listening. The workshop had four sections focused on 1) Mindfulness, 2) Experiencing Compassion, 3) Self-Compassion, and 4) Expanding our Circle of Concern. They took place over Zoom and included people across the U.S. and one in Chile.

What was the reported impact on or feedback from participants? On yourself? 
This experience allowed me to more intentionally embrace and embody principles of compassion and to share them with my community. Pre- and post-workshop surveys indicated that participants experienced increases in knowing specific ways to cultivate a deeper connection to compassion, seeing compassion as a resource available to them when dealing with difficulty, and feeling compassion toward themselves as a person with hypospadias or epispadias.

How has the ACT Program helped you become an Ambassador of Compassion? 
By nature, ACT requires participants to take action to alleviate suffering and cultivate compassion through the Capstone Project. My project invited me to come off the sidelines and more deeply embrace my story and vulnerability — and to trust my ability to embody compassion with others in a supportive environment. Healing is about more than medical care, and I'm happy to be contributing to this wider field of compassion.

What advice would you give to someone who's considering participating in the ACT Program? 
Trust the process. The scaffolding of the Capstone Project will meet you — wherever you are. Also, be courageous and allow yourself to put your story and your desire at the center of your Capstone Project. This will make your project authentically yours.


Be the change!

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